Last March, when the BJP was wrapping up its membership drive, party president Amit Shah must have liked what he saw. The numbers stood at nine crore, unprecedented for any political party in the world. Shah, however, announced his decision to extend the membership drive for another month. By the end of April, the membership swelled to eleven crore, and Shah said the BJP would not rest until all those who voted for the party in all the recent elections became its active members.
Without losing time, the BJP launched an ambitious and unprecedented programme in which 15 lakh party members would be given training on its core ideology and on the issues facing the nation. This multilevel training programme, which would be held on mandal, district and state levels, would culminate in a national camp in December. The structure of the programme and other details were finalised at a national workshop held in Delhi last month, in which senior party leaders, national office bearers and five representatives from each state took part.
A team headed by party general secretary Muralidhar Rao is in charge of the content, literature and theme of the camps. Other members include V. Satish, Mahesh Chandra Sharma, L. Ganeshan, R. Balashankar, Rampyare Pandey and Suresh Pujari.
The first few camps will be held to train the trainers. Those who participate in these camps will oversee further training camps across the country. “We have just concluded the training programme for the Delhi unit,” said state president Satish Upadhyay. “Spread over two days and split into ten sessions, we covered everything, from the party's history, struggles and its growth on which general secretary Ram Lal Ji spoke. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, our vice president, spoke on cultural nationalism, and national training in-charge Mahesh Sharma spoke on ekatam manavwaad (integral humanism),” he said. Those who participated in the camp held on August 7 and 8 will in turn conduct 300 camps in the state to train about 30,000 workers.
The meeting was a closed-door affair and the trainees had been instructed not to share anything about it. While a new member said it was introductory in nature, a party leader revealed that the meeting was part of inculcating discipline in members.
Apparently, the idea is to reduce the dependence on the RSS, at least to an extent. But a senior RSS source said he did not want to get into such a “needless issue”, and said the Sangh would continue to campaign for “good people, good governance and not specific persons or party”.
Sahasrabuddhe, who oversaw the training for the new BJP MPs after last year's Lok Sabha elections, said party members must understand the five cardinal principles of the BJP's philosophy. “We call them panchnishta—nationalism, democracy, equality, positive secularism and value-based politics,” he said.
At the state-level camps and the national camp, BJP leaders who have handled the media, like former party spokespersons Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Prakash Javadekar, will train the participants on what to share with the media and when to share information. Union Minister Arun Jaitely will also address the training camps at a later stage.
The BJP attracted millions of new members with its missed call scheme. Those who were interested in joining the party could do so by returning a call, which provoked the Congress to mock at the BJP as the “missed call party”. The BJP now plans to use the training campaign to convert the new members into “active members”. Those selected to attend the camps have been told to enrol 100 members each, almost like a multi-level marketing scheme. “When we are through with this, we will see the effect of the missed calls absolutely magnified,” said party vice president Shyam Jaju.
“The members who came through the missed call route are well-wishers of the party. Now it is our responsibility to make them a team of potential activists,” said Shah at national workshop held to launch the campaign. The BJP has even postponed its organisational elections so as to complete the camps. Some of the missed call members could well become new office bearers of the party, come December.